Serving the 21st Century Patron

Next month I’ll be presenting in the free, online event Serving the 21st Centruy Patron hosted by WebJunction. Maurice Coleman and I will be talking about morale issues in libraries and how to improve morale. At a time when advocacy and customer service are paramount, morale can either make or break a library. I’m equally excited to hear the other presentations.

View the full 2-day conference schedule and register here:

Hope to see you there!

Shelf Check by Emily Lloyd

A Day in the Life With Lori Reed – Tuesday


There is no time to hit the snooze button today. I have a class on customer service starting in two hours. I have no idea what traffic might be like, if the room will be set up, or any other number of variables. Normally I would not schedule training to start at 8am but I try to have at least 1-2 sessions a year of this class early in the morning so that our staff who work behind the scenes in the middle of the night delivering books to branches don’t have to adjust their circadian rhythm too much in order to attend. It’s a trainer’s job to put the learners needs first and sometimes that means getting up really early. I’ve even done sessions at 7am.


I planned to be out the door before the kids woke up. No such luck there. I spend a few minutes holding my 2-year-old daughter and she screams as I walk out the door, “Mommy don’t go.” Having been through this many times before I’m able to leave with only a small feeling of guilt.


I arrive at the library and realize that I only have 30-minutes until start time. It’s a pet peeve of mine to start a class late especially when most of the attendees have also gotten up early to park, walk a few blocks, and be ready to start on time. The room is set up and the door is open for me. Hurray! I don’t have to search for a key. The room was used the night before so I could not check the set up ahead of time. Like always our maintenance staff did a great job and ahead of schedule. I notice that there is not a flip chart stand and flip charting is a crucial part of this session. I run upstairs to borrow one. I also hunt down an AV cart that has a projector and PC. I unplug the PC and hook up my laptop. Better to use the computer I am familiar with. Handouts and roster were printed the day before. I am ready to go!


Nearly everyone has arrived on time and we are ready to go. From 8am-noon we have some great discussions about customer service including: who are our competitors, what do libraries do well, what do our competitors do well, what could libraries do better, tying our mission and vision in with customer service, how to say no, body language, tone of voice, words used, how to create an engaging environment, how to handle complaints, who are our customers, what are their needs, role playing, and small group discussions. Four hours seems like a lot, but we need it. This is a great session that requires lots of audience interaction. It’s one of my favorite workshops to facilitate.


Step out with a colleague/friend to pick up lunch. Come back to eat in the office and talk about an upcoming project we are collaborating on.


Back in my office to wrap up scheduling training for 2010. I can’t seem to reach the people I need to talk to get this project done. I have most of the training scheduled and the rest will have to be listed as TBD. I begin inputting the 50+ sessions into PeopleSoft so staff can register for the sessions. It takes a while to enter this many courses and also cross reference various calendars to make sure there are absolutely no mistakes. The worse thing that can happen is training is listed as one day but a room was reserved for a different day or a trainer has it listed as a different day. You don’t want 10 or 20 or 30 people to show up for training and not have a space or trainer available.


I sign in to the George and Joan InfoPeople webinar on collaboration but I have a headache. Download the slides and know that the webinar will be in itunes tomorrow morning. Back to entering courses.


Courses entered now it’s time to put them in a Word document that can be sent out to staff. I use the previous schedule as a template and do a lot of copy and pasting. Then it’s time to double check the Word document against the sessions in PeopleSoft against the sessions on my calendar. The last thing to do it enter the dates again on our Intranet calendar but that will have to wait.


I think about changing some of the wording regarding required training for part-time staff. This takes some thought, writing, and revisions. Another hour gone.


I have to leave on time today. My husband is working till 7pm so I have to pick up both kids. Start driving to my son’s school and call my colleague Paul to discuss the book we are writing together.


Arrive at my son’s school. Greeted with the normal hugs and kisses. Head out to pick my daughter up from daycare.


Pick up my daughter. I only pick her up once a week so she squeals with excitement when she sees me. Talk to her teachers and some of the other parents. My son sees his friends who were here with him last year for preschool. He gives them lots of hugs too.


We are home and headache is worse. Take something for it. Make a snack for the kids and put on a movie. We all sit down together to watch Clifford’s Really Big Movie.


Husband comes home and fixes dinner. Have I mentioned how lucky I am? Spend some more time with the kids until bedtime.


Back to the computer to write up these posts, write up the post for Library Trainer about moving to the new site, catch up on personal email, social networks, and school. I’m taking 6 hours of courses this semester Writing for PR and Pop Culture. I hate the way Blackboard discussion groups are laid out on the screen and wish someone would improve the collaboration within Blackboard. Been waiting for a week for a response from a professor about an assignment that I need special approval for. Can’t call because office hours are limited and conflict with my training schedule at work. Reading tweets by mstephens7 about using Twitter for his classes and wish he were my professor.


Everything done. Posts scheduled for 11am tomorrow. Hurray. Time for bed!

Library Service in Tough Economic Times

Things are a little crazy here in Charlotte. In case you haven’t heard we’ve had a gas shortage for over a week now. The pipeline that supplies this area was partially shut down, word got out, and chaos ensued as anyone with a vehicle (and gas cans) went to fill up.

What would have been a mild shortage has turned into a major headache as some people hoard gas while others cannot find gas to get to work, school, etc.

I was lucky enough to find gas this weekend but had to wait in line for an hour and watched as tempers flared.

Then today came word that one of the largest employers in our area, Wachovia, was bought by Citigroup. Charlotte is the headquarters for Wachovia and it is estimated that thousands of Wachovia employees will be laid off within the next year. I’m hearing from my online friends that the ripple effect is already being felt. Businesses who did contract work for Wachovia will be effected along with the people who provided services for those families–landscaping, house cleaning, retail, restaurants, and eventually the government will feel the affect from the huge loss of tax revenue.

Although the situation I’ve outlined is close to home for me, it is far from unique. Across the country there are similar stories of businesses and people in crisis. So what does this mean for libraries?

First and foremost people are unsure, scared, angry–stressed. Be empathetic. Be courteous. Be respectful. You have no idea what someone is going through.

If your library has a policy that prevents access to materials for customers who owe more than a certain amount in fines and fees, see what you can do to change this. In these tough financial times people need access to library materials and resources more than ever. The more people we can help find employment, the less people we will have on government assistance programs.

Realize that the economic challenges our country is facing effects your coworkers too. It is entirely possible that someone you work with is experiencing or has gone through bankruptcy or foreclosure on his or her home. Be extra kind to the colleague who is having a bad day.

In sum be kind to everyone. Be kind to yourself. That small act of kindness you show someone could make all the difference in a person’s day.

ALA Part III: Customer Service Disney Style

Saturday morning I had the privilege to hear Bruce Kimbrell from the Disney Institute speak about customer service. Soft-spoken and pleasant mannered, Bruce has a great sense of humor that can liven yet put any audience at ease.

Some notes that I took during the session:

  • The front-line is the bottom line.
  • When you find out what a customer’s “wow” moment was, make sure to share that with other employees and celebrate it with the employee who provided it.
  • The most common comments Disney receives are not about how great the rides are, but how clean the parks are and how friendly the employees are.
  • The most common question from customers, “What time is the three o’clock parade?”
  • Customers can feel perfection even if they can’t see it (for example, eyelashes on the figures on a ride)
  • Disney 2.0 – “Pal Mickeys” interactive GPS Mickey dolls that kids can take around the park. They talk and give you tips about where to go, when to go, and what to do. If kids accidentally leave them at the hotel the maids pose the dolls in interesting places. Then kids started purposefully leaving them in the rooms to “have fun.” This costs nothing, but adds that extra special touch and helps to make it a magical experience.
  • A lot of what we sell is intangible – same in libraries
  • 18% turnover rate
  • At Disneyland there are 24 unions! Yikes!
  • One of the keys to customer service is holding staff accountable. Make them aware of what is expected prior to hiring and during orientation.
  • Separate on-stage presence from back-stage presence to maintain the setting. Snow White may smoke and fight with her boyfriend but not when she is “on-stage.”
  • Safety is not negotiable.
  • When you have to say no, turn it into a wow moment. At Disney if a child waits in line for a ride only to find he is not tall enough for the ride, he is presented with a certificate that allows him and his family to go immediately to the front of the line when he is tall enough. A potentially bad moment turned into a wow moment.
  • Every face to face interaction is a moment of truth. If a customer interacts with 60 cast members per day there are 60 moments of truth. If there are 59 great moments and 1 bad, which do you think the customer will remember? We need all moments of truth to be great.
  • First and last interaction at Disney is parking. Another three o’clock question, “Where did I park my car?” If a customer forgets where he or she parked the car Disney staff can locate it based on arrival time (stamped on ticket) they put the family on a golf car and locate and take the customer and family to the car. (Now this is process improvement!)
  • Continuously improve the process. Training/learning/improving never ends. You have to keep looking for ways to improve. 🙂

Going back to the “three o’clock question.” I think this is a key area for improving customer service within libraries. As Bruce pointed out, we all have three o’clock questions. Identify them. Then come up with a response or better solution. You are not going to stop the three o’clock questions so you need to find a way to handle them with finesse. Disney was not going to stop the question, “Dude where’s my car?” So instead they created a solution.

So what are some three o’clock questions in libraries?

  • Do you have any books?
  • Can I use the computer?
  • How do I get my print outs?
  • Why do I have these fines?
  • Where is the restroom?
  • What time do you close?

I remember when we first installed our PC Reservation and print management software. There were days when I felt like I could bang my head against the wall if one more patron asked me how to set up a print account. Yes it is tedious. Yes there are a lot of steps. Yes I must have went through the steps over 100 times a day for a few months (or at least it felt like that many). BUT…nearly each time it was the customer’s first interaction with the system. This was my chance to offer a “wow” moment to that customer.

We have to find a way to turn three o’clock questions into wow moments because the three o’clock questions are the easy ones. These are the questions we can prepare for.

After the session I introduced myself to Bruce and told him about one of my new roles in our library with leading a team that will create a standard for customer service and provide training. I asked Bruce if he had any book recommendations to get me started. He offered to send me the book Be Our Guest written by staff at the Disney Institute. My first day back from ALA guess what was waiting on my desk?

Waiting on my desk this morning...

A true Disney fan I also had to get a picture with Bruce. If you look closely can you see what kind of watch I’m wearing in the picture?

Me and Bruce from Disney Institute

I got that watch nine years ago on my honeymoon at Disney World. I still wear it nearly every day to remember the great time we had. The level of service Disney provides is something we should all aspire to. In the age of Google and Twitter the human touch we provide to our patrons/customers is where we can truly stand apart from the competition.

Truth in Advertising? You be the judge…

Yes I have lots to blog about re: ALA, but it’s the weekend and family time. So I thought I would share my shopping experiences and why Web 2.0 – shared user content is so great.

I bought my kids a kiddie pool for the 4th of July and it had a rip in the seam. Just what you want on July 4th when it’s hot and you want to entertain the kids.

So I’ve got the defective one all packaged up and ready to return and am taking a few minutes to look online at reviews of other pools. I finally found the pool–who wouldn’t love a pool with two slides!

Original Image

But wait, the reviews are horrible and look at this user uploaded photo. It’s obvious that the manufacturer did some major photoshopping to the original image. I am so glad I spent the time looking at the reviews.

I love that Amazon is allowing users to upload their own photos with their reviews. It’s nice to see a product in real use…even if the consumers in this one do look a little miserable.